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HomeNewsBC tallies 2,000 drug poisoning deaths for third consecutive year

BC tallies 2,000 drug poisoning deaths for third consecutive year

BC reached another grim milestone as it continues to grapple with the drug poisoning crisis.

For the third straight year, the province has tallied at least two thousand fatalities from illicit drugs after 189 lives were lost in October. That equates to just over six lives lost per day on average.

According to data from the BC Coroners Service this is the 37th consecutive month where at least 150 residents have passed away from the public health emergency.

Northern Health tallied 13 more unregulated drug deaths in October – three of those were in the northwest.

So far in 2023, our health authority has seen 157 toxic drug fatalities – 36 of which were in our region.

Northern Health has the highest unregulated drug death rate among all the health authorities at 61.4 per 100,000 people – with Vancouver Coastal the next closest at 55.1.

However, 57% of all toxic drug deaths have been in the Vancouver Coastal (587) and Fraser Health (574) regions.

In terms of Health Service Delivery Area, the Northwest has the seventh-highest drug toxicity death rate of 55.2– Vancouver (85.3) is first.

Last year, Northern Health posted 187 drug poisoning fatalities, with 58 of those in the Northwest – both record highs.

So far this year, 2,039 people have lost their lives due to the toxic drug supply.

About seven out of every ten decedents this year are between the ages of 30-59.

The 50-59 age grouping has the highest unregulated drug death rate in BC at 79.8 followed by those aged 40-49 (78.0).

Last year 2,377 residents passed away from illicit drug overdoses, making it the deadliest year on record.

Unregulated drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in British Columbia for people aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined.

In addition, Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, issued the following statement regarding the illicit drug toxicity deaths in October:

“As we face the sombre reality presented in the latest BC Coroners Service report, our hearts go out to the families and friends mourning the loss of 189 individuals in October to the poisoned drug supply. Each of these lives was an integral part of the fabric of our province and our communities, and their absence leaves a void that cannot be filled.

“More than 13,200 people have died because of poisoned drugs since the crisis was declared in 2016. We recognize the depth of grief these numbers represent, far beyond what any statistics can convey. Nothing will ever replace these people in the hearts of those who love them. Our government continues to work urgently to provide access to effective and compassionate care.

“One way we are strengthening access is with innovative treatment models like Road to Recovery. Situated in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, the model provides rapid access to the full continuum of care options. It ensures that people receive integrated care every step of the way from the same team, which is crucial for providing help exactly when it’s needed, without any delays. This approach is transforming addiction care by bringing together services from the addictions clinic to housing and recovery supports, all in one place. As this model expands, we will be continuing to add supports for people living with addiction and substance-use challenges with more options for treatment and recovery services.

“We hold close the memory of those we have lost as we continue to build and improve the systems of support in our province. Our goal is clear: to give the care and support needed to stop these losses from happening again and to help our communities heal. We will continue to make real changes that will help save lives and connect people to the care they need.”

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